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Indie Games: What Can They Do To Stand Out?

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Posted September 8, 2011 - By Rob Manuel

Indies

Robert Boyd in an interview with Edge Magazine stated that Zeboyd Games would be shifting their focus from Xbox to PC games. If the name sounds familiar, then you probably know the company from their critically acclaimed RPG titles Breath of Death VII and Cthuhlu Saves the World and who just recently announced that they will be developing the next episode in the Penny Arcade video game series. The switch to PC comes to no shock to anyone following this budding indie development team because a week after releasing both of their titles on Steam, they made more money online than their 18 month run on XBLIG.

Although money, interestingly enough, does not seem to be their main reason for moving to the greener pastures of Steam. The problem here stems from exposure – specifically being able to stand out in a sea of mediocre titles. Just trying to find the good indie games in the digital backroom of the marketplace is tough enough. Imagine trying to make any impression on potential customers when you have little to no advertising in that same digital backroom.

Astonishingly enough, I don’t hold any control over Microsoft’s Indie game department. I know. How am I supposed to look your mom in the eye again? My point is, there are some relatively simple steps Microsoft could take to keep their talent from floating away:

  • Create an intermediary section. Reward those who make XBLIG great by giving them a platform that stands out.
  • Coordinate with special events like Summer Uprising. They’re doing most of the legwork to organize a release schedule. Promote it. Maybe remind them that a train simulator isn’t the best idea in the world.
  • Post a video on the front section pointing out some of the better indie titles. Gamers have to dig even further than the XBLIG section just to find Kotaku’s picks. It’s going to take more than a couple of Goonies and a power ballad from Cindy Lauper to find that.
  • But that’s not likely to happen. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself – by getting someone else to do it for you.

Help Me, Help You

And that’s where I come in - or at least people like me come in. We’re bloggers, tweet crafters, and the tireless army willing to play through all the XBLIG, PSN, and any other indie titles we can get our hands on. A couple of weeks ago I asked for you to send your games to me and the response has been incredible. Some like Xona Games – makers of the awesome Decimation series – even found me on twitter. You can cyber-stalk me at @8BitWiz just to make things easier. But I need help in order to promote you. Here are some simple tips to help me, bloggers like me, and most importantly, gamers looking to get their hands on the next big thing – your game.

Need The Info

Trailers, screenshots, anything that makes your platformer stand out from the hundreds of others; I need it all in order to promote your product. Think of it as preparing for the zombie apocalypse. You need a strategy, a plan of attack, and above all else ammunition such as information or finished pieces of your game. Honestly, I approach every situation though the lens of a zombie apocalypse.

Game On

Even if your game already came out, you can continue to support it. Unlike bigger titles, I’ve seen indie games that are a couple of months old gain a resurgence in popularity as people discover it. One great way to do this is to reach out to the fans through your blog or twitter. Follow @ShellyAutumn if you’re prepared to experience the madness of BloodyCheckers. Even @Jamezila has been known to gather a group for ZP2KX. And this leads to…

Put the “I” in indie

One of the greatest assets you can sell is often yourself. Lots of people out there want to make games, but you are actually doing something about it. Tell me about what games inspire you or how you came up with the game you’re working on now. Sharing bits of your life is a great way to get people interested not only in your game, but in your future endeavors. And it doesn’t hurt to do something particularly cool like propose to your girlfriend at PAX. Congrats, @Jamezila.

What You Should Be Doing

Indies

What You Should Play: Wonderputt

It’s not often that you get games that border on works of art while being fun as hell to play. This relaxing game of putt-putt takes you through an ever changing course filled with animals, machines, and more colors than all of the Gears of War and Call of Duty games combined. You can’t lose, but you can still feel bad for making it into the hole after twenty strokes.

What You Should Support: Extra Credits

In a matter of days, the good team over at Extra Credits has almost cleared their goal of ten thousands dollars to start a publishing company focused on indie titles. Don’t think of your dollars as going to a single title, but to a small army of titles and hopefully the beginning of something great. If you are not aware of Extra Credits, visit their Youtube challenge to learn everything from the mechanics of games to issues facing the industry. They tie it all together in just a couple of minutes and with a bit a humor thrown in. Their project as well as the team truly deserves our support.

INdies

What You Should Buy: Cogs

Steampunk finally gets a puzzle to call their own. Cogs made its way through all the indie conventions and picked up a couple fans along the way. Gamplay consists of moving squares around a three dimensional object to make it work. Connect gears. Move around steam pipes. Ring a couple of bells. Cogs fits into that easy to pick up and hard to put down category with 50 puzzles ready for you to take on.

Indie Games: What Can They Do To Stand Out?
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